Years ago, I was blessed to meet a wonderful group of like minded sistas who, like me, were on a natural hair journey.
As we combed, washed, braided, and locked each other’s manes we shared stories of what it was like to grow up as little black girls in a world that doesn’t always treat black as beautiful.
Then we danced and rejoiced at beauty reclaimed.
It was and is an amazing and enlightened sisterhood of women who have all looked deep within and learned to love themselves just as they are…hair and all.
I’ve basked in my own cultural utopia and forgot that others have not always been as fortunate.
Sure, I’ve offered natural hair tips when asked. After all, I went natural nearly 20 years ago at a predominantly white Southern university..one of only a handful of black women on campus who were on that path at the time.
But somewhere along the way as I grew to love my locks I forgot to ask of those who asked me for hair advice: but sister, do you love you, really love you, as God made you?
Going natural isn’t just a change in roller sets and hair styles.
It’s a change in mind set and lifestyle.
Maintaining a positive self identity as an African American woman in a culture in which other beauty standards reign supreme is no easy feat.
Our oft written about struggles with hair and identity are but one symbol of this.
We fry it, dye it, lye it, weave it up, wrap it up, slick it down all in an effort to mimic a texture that for most of us is not ours naturally.
We tell ourselves it’s by choice.
We tell ourselves it’s “just a style”.
We tell ourselves it’s just easier to maintain when straight.
We tell ourselves our jobs won’t let us or our hair live free.
We tell ourselves that others rocking natural hair are just fronting, that we’re natural too…just in a different way.
We tell ourselves all sorts of things…except the truth.
That for too many of us the coarse strands that caress our scalp are a source of shame to be tortured into conformity.
Now, I could go into how centuries worth of oppression and a system in which those whose hair most closely resembled europeans’ tresses were deemed more beautiful.
But I’m not telling most folks something they don’t already know.
I’m talking about folks who’ve read the hair conking section in the Autobiography of Malcolm X but still singe their hair into bone straight confines.
Folks who are familiar with the Clark’s baby doll experiment but somehow miss that they themselves are contributing to future self esteem issues for little brown children.
Folks who watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” and still sink thousands into hair weaves and the “creamy crack”.
Folks who have been living in an unnatural state for so long they no longer know what natural looks like, feels like…let alone how to define it.
This stuff runs deep.
And it makes me so sad.
I had a wonderful conversation with my father tonight about his efforts at raising black consciousness in the 60s.
There were some who were so stuck in their own fear and pathology there was little hope of breaking through.
There were some who were angry that he challenged their way of thinking.
Then there were those who tried to really be honest with themselves about who they were and what they really wanted out of life.
And when he got through to those folks it made every bit of struggle worth it.
So here’s to living “napturally” and to loving every bump, curve, and kink.